Monday, August 13, 2012

Players to Target and Avoid After the First Week of Preseason Games

The first group of preseason games are useless for evaluating talent on most established teams. For example, the fact that Aaron Rodgers went 2 of 8 with one interception does not mean their is a quarterback controversy in Green Bay, nor does it mean that Aaron Rodgers is any less of a stud QB. If the steak continues throughout the preseason, there is reason to worry, but right now, players of that caliber are completely safe.

On the other hand, there is every reason to read into the performances of unknown quantities, simply because we have nothing else to go on. The preseason is the only time we are going to be able to see most of these players in their new uniforms, so we ought to make the most of every preseason game to evaluate talent. Here are a few players I liked and disliked after the first group of preseason games (going back to the HoF game).

Players Moving Up:

Pierre Garcon: I loved seeing a solid connection between Garcon and Robert Griffin during the first preseason game. Garcon looked good enough to get away from coverage and fight for the ball while RG3 looked good enough to get him the ball. Someone will inevitably get receptions in Washington, and Garcon looks like the #1 target.

Evan Rosyer: Royster is a lock for the starting gig in Washington, so it might be time to dump your stock in Roy Helu. We will get a better picture in games 2 and 3, but it looks like Roster's job to lose after this first preseason game.

Julio Jones: Jones outshone White, who looked pretty good himself, and looks like Matt Ryan's new favorite target. There was speculation that Jones would have an amazing year, but I don't think anyone expected to see 100+ yards and a touchdown in one quarter of play. Jones is a physically gifted receiver with an accurate quarterback on a team moving towards the passing attack; everyone wants this guy on their team.

Vincent Brown: Brown looked really good playing with the second team, but it really doesn't say much for him. Given the performance against the Packers, I hope Brown is given the opportunity to play more with the first string to test his potential. He seems like a strong player, but we will know more as the preseason drags on. (Short aside; Antonio Gates looked healthy).

Knowshon Moreno: Moreno looked pretty good. There is no reason to draft him yet, but keep an eye on him as the preseason drags forth. If he could stop getting injured he would be a pretty damn good back.

David Wilson and Rashad Jennings: Neither one of these guys are imminently threatening to streal a starting gig, but either one of them looks like a great addition pending situations with the starting backs on their teams. If Bradshaw gets hurt, Wilson looked great. If Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't show up for the start of the season, Jennings looks like a solid play.

LeGarrette Blount: Doug Martin looked good, but Blount looked better. Blount ran with a passion and intensity that was largely lacking from his game last season. It definitely appears to be his job to lose going into the second preseason game.

Andre Roberts: For the second consecutive game, Roberts has gotten multiple receptions in short playing time. It looks like the quarterbacks are looking for him and are confident throwing the ball to him...if only they could actually get the ball there more often. His potential is limited by the QB play in Arizona.

Peyton Hillis: I absolutely despise Hillis, but dammit if he didn't play well against the Cardinals. I'm going to take this performance with a grain of salt, because the Saints also ran all over the Cardinals starting defense, but I like where Hillis is going as a fantasy player.

Matt Flynn, Leon Washington, and Russell Wilson: Matt Flynn started this game and looked on target. I don't care that most of his passes were extremely short, but every single one of them was thrown into the perfect spot for the receiver to make the catch. His interception was forgivable, as he is still learning to read defenses and should have just put a little more velocity on the ball to zip it past the linebacker. Leon Washington looked great playing for Marshawn Lynch, and while he might split carries with Turbin, the weakness of the Seattle offensive line left Flynn dumping the ball of to him with regularity. I was ready to anoint Flynn as the undisputed starter until Russell Wilson stepped in and showed why he was in this QB competition. I think Flynn will win the starting job, as his passing was a bit more precise, but either one of these guys should be a good QB2.

Austin Collie: I'm not going to put Luck here, because he was one tackle away from having only 127 yards and one touchdown. Furthermore, the offensive line looked bad and he was only 10-16 on the night. Respectable, but far from Hall of Fame worthy. Austin Collie looked like he should get plenty of receptions this season, and I really liked the way he was looked for in the offense.

Travaris Cadet: Cadet put up good numbers in both the HoF game and Week 1. I don't know how far up the depth chart he can climb, but he already looks better than Chris Ivory. He can catch and run, and most people probably don't even know who this kid is. If I knew nothing about the Saints' depth chart, Cadet would be my starting RB for the Saints. 

Players Moving Down:

 Roy Helu: You can't be happy about owning Helu right now, especially after he showed nothing special in the game against the Bills. There were people taking Helu in the 4th-6th rounds who are now stuck with a 10th round talent, unless he can do something special over the next three weeks.

James Starks: He looked so unprepared in the preseason game that the Packers signed Cedric Benson. 'Nuff said.

Shonn Greene: The guy looked pedestrian at best. I don't think he's in danger of losing the starting job, but two more games like that one and the Jets will be in an RBBC situation.

Brandon Weeden: Welcome to the NFL, rookie. 3-9 with one interception and one lost fumble is not what you were drafted for. I don't know if he can play badly enough to lose the starting job this preseason, but Colt McCoy showed him up with the second team. I am worried for all Browns receivers at this point.

Laurent Robinson: He was outplayed by most of the other Jaguars receivers. He needs to shape up over the next two-three weeks...or maybe this is why he wasn't played much for the first four years of his career.

Dan Carpenter: It is rare for a kicker to get any mention in fantasy football articles, but the guy did miss two field goals on two attempts.

Jamaal Charles: I am no longer convinced that Charles will be the major ball carrier for the Chiefs this season. He has plenty of preseason to fix his image, but I really didn't like what I saw from him. He had limited touches, but with the way Hillis ran, I wouldn't take him before the third round if I was drafting today.

Frank Gore: LaMichael James, Rock Cartwright, Brandon Jacobs, and Anthony Dixon all looked good in their first preseason game. That just doesn't bode well for Frank Gore. He needs to prove that he is the most talented runner on this team.

Cam Newton: Don't read too far into this, but if you watched the beginning of the Panthers game you know how shitty Newton looked. First preseason game; no problem. I'm just throwing up the red flag now in hopes that he proves me wrong over the next two weeks. The Texans defense could just be that good.

Chris Johnson: In the same vein, how bad did Chris Johnson look the other day? I mean, really, the offensive line got absolutely no push and he did practically nothing on his five runs. Then he was targeted with a number of passes...that he dropped. It could be that the Seahawks have a dominant front-7, but I am actually a little worried about Chris Johnson.

All of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Teams were playing with strange rosters that may or may not accurately represent their full strength on offense or defense, so the top players need to keep pushing and the bottom players have plenty of opportunity to vindicate themselves.

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